Business Management

How Rental Property Owners Can Travel for Free Using Credit Cards

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Disclaimer: I’m not a CPA or lawyer, so make sure to do your own research or follow up with those professionals if you have questions about your situation. It’s common knowledge that you want to avoid opening credit cards when you are in the middle of securing another type of loan.

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Do you have a house hack or Airbnb property? You probably think about it as something you do on the side. It’s not your main job or something you consider a full-time business. However, you are missing out on a great secret. 

Anything you do that earns a profit can be deemed a business in the eyes of a bank.

Heck, a few years ago, I started giving tennis lessons on the side. (I used to be a good tennis player back in the day. A back injury ended my college tennis career, but I still love to coach and help junior players.) This wasn’t earning tons of money, but it was a side business. 

Point being, if you are doing a house hack, have a short- or long-term rental, or teach tennis (or some other sport) lessons, you do in fact have a business!

And that means you qualify to open business credit cards. You do not have to be an official LLC with an EIN. You can apply as a sole proprietor (more on that below).

Laughing child looking at glad trainer while speaking with him. Cheerful man holding sport equipment while situating on field for game

Business Credit Card Perks

Why should the ability to qualify for a business credit card matter to you? Business credit cards offer some of the highest sign-up bonuses and ongoing earning opportunities.

When talking free travel, it’s certainly the case. If you do not have a business credit card for your “side business,” you are missing out on hundreds of thousands of points every year.

If you have any size business, you can qualify for a business credit card. With sign-up bonuses that can sometimes exceed $1,000 in value, it’s a no brainer to look into them. 

The lights came on this year for one of my friends and a fellow BiggerPockets member, Taylor from Memphis, Tenn. He recently told me, “If you have a rental property and don’t see it as a business, you are leaving money on the table. I can hit these huge sign-up bonuses with money I’m already spending.”

Related: How Airbnb Helped Us Pay Down Credit Card Debt, Buy a Primary Residence, & More

Many of the personal consumer credit cards you have will also have a comparable business credit card that earns the same kind of points. This is true for Amex, Chase, and Capital One. The rules vary for each bank, but most of them allow you to move your business card points over to your personal card points. By pooling points together, you can go after big redemptions for free flights, hotels, and rental cars.

(Quick tip: One of the best values in rewards travel is international business class.)

With one sign-up bonus, you might double or triple your entire rewards. This is one of the big “free travel rules” I talk about in this article: “How to Earn Free Vacations With Travel Rewards Credit Cards.”

Pro-Level Point Hacking

You might be thinking, “I already know this, and I already have the cards for the airlines I love.”

Transferring Points

Well, you need to look into any banks that have your favorite airlines (or hotel brands) as a transfer partner. You could be missing out on another 200,000-plus points because a bank’s rewards card has your favorite airline as a transfer partner. For those with multiple businesses, you could be maximizing your earning even more.

Airplane's wigs,flying above on clouds.

Related: Why a Small Business Credit Card Is a Must-Have

Earning Multiples

I focus a lot of my rewards earning on credit card sign-up bonuses. However, there are some great ways to maximize regular monthly spending, too. For example, there’s a Chase Ink business card that earns 5x points at office supply stores.

Credit Card Fact vs. Fiction

For those worried about credit scores, it can actually increase your credit score over time to open multiple credit cards. However, Chase and Amex do not report your business credit cards to your personal credit. Capital One is the only major bank (along with TD Bank and Discover) that reports business credit cards to your personal credit profile. 

For those worried about annual fees with premium rewards cards, you always have the option to cancel the card after the first year if you do not value the ongoing benefits. Many cards also have a $0 annual fee version where you can downgrade your account and avoid annual fees.

Note: If your business is a sole proprietorship, you can apply for a business credit card, but you need to make sure you use your name and your social security number when you apply. If you have a DBA (doing business as) name, it must be on some official document to verify. Otherwise, use your name as the business name on the application. Do not make up a business name. 

Bottom Line

In conclusion, do you have a business? Your Airbnb, house hack, rental property, etc. definitely counts. If you or your partner do some consulting or sell items as a side hustle, that also counts as a business.

If there’s a light bulb appearing over your head right now, you may be ready for 200,000-plus points with some business credit cards in your future.

Disclaimer: I’m not a CPA or lawyer, so make sure to do your own research or follow up with those professionals if you have questions about your situation. It’s common knowledge that you want to avoid opening credit cards when you are in the middle of securing another type of loan.

Questions for me? Do you have a business credit card? Which one and what are the associated perks? 

Let’s talk in the comment section!

Zac is the founder of Travel Freely, a free web app that helps people travel for free. He and his wife Virginia are from Nashville but have live...
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    Brenden Mitchum Rental Property Investor from Atlanta, GA
    Replied 9 months ago
    Wow, terrific advice here Zac! In one short blog post you answered about a dozen questions I had bouncing around in my head. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Zac Hood from Denver, CO
    Replied 9 months ago
    Haha - Thanks, Brenden. I live in this world of credit cards and points, but it can be very confusing for the average person who doesn't have the time to cut through the noise of slick marketing and various "amazing" offers. There are definitely certain, simple tricks that can pay off without diving in too deep.
    Marija Sparano Accountant from White Plains, NY
    Replied 9 months ago
    Great advice Zac! Thank you for the article.
    Zac Hood from Denver, CO
    Replied 9 months ago
    Thanks, Marija!
    Taylor Lewis Property Manager from Memphis, TN
    Replied 9 months ago
    Good word, Zac! Thanks for helping me accumulate over $7,000 in free travel in the past 12 months!
    Nathan G. Real Estate Broker from Cody, WY
    Replied 9 months ago
    I just started six months ago and already earned enough to fly to a conference for free and then flew with my wife to Mexico!
    Zac Hood from Denver, CO
    Replied 9 months ago
    That's awesome, Nathan. Sounds like there's a lot more free travel in your future.
    David Pfeffer
    Replied 9 months ago
    I literally just bought my first rental property last year utilizing under 5k cash initial investment, a few loans and the rest on credit. I since refinanced most of the credit card debt into a 20 year commercial mortgage. I call my method the CGBRRR (Credit garden Buy Rent out Rehab Refinance). Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize business credit existed until about 1.5 years ago :(. You can keep your DTI down by utilizing business credit and not letting it show on your personal credit. For me, DTI is what's stopping me from getting a second rental or house hack. This would be the drawback of utilizing all of BPs tax strategies. Please someone read my first rental property post and comment :D It talks about how your post is kind of like a BP "missing link". Thanks for writing this btw!
    Rob Thompson Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied 9 months ago
    Great article Zac. The 5x multiplier on the Chase Ink Business Cash card is incredible when buying material for rehabs. Keep up the good work!